There is nothing in life that can be considered a sure thing. Well except death, taxes and Nebraska football fans finding reasons for hope as a season creeps closer.
As we approach the season I was thinking of players who may surprise the Husker faithful this season. So below is a list of five players who, in my opinion, have great opportunities to really make an impact on the 2021 season.
Chris Hickman - Tight End
The two tight ends who have received most of the buzz this off-season, rightfully so, are Austin Allen and Travis Vokolek. They are extremely large human beings. Austin Allen is listed at 6’9” - 255 pounds. Vokolek is a paltry 6’6” - 260 pounds.
Chris Hickman on the other hand is 6’5” and 215 pounds. He’s a different type of tight end for this offense.
I thought that Hickman is a prime candidate for transfer. It’s not that he isn’t talented. It is however, that he has gone back and forth between wide receiver and tight end during his time at Nebraska.
There have been mumblings about his play this fall including a long touchdown catch on a seam route. That is something that maybe is not in the wheel house for fellow tight ends Allen and Vokolek.
Hickman is a good perimeter blocker and can present matchup problems on the outside when he is split out.
Plus, he is also a member of the Mullet Mafia.
Sevion Morrison - Running Back
Health issues have continued to get in Sevion Morrison’s way during his time at Nebraska. There have been muscle injuries, COVID and even a concussion.
Now there are the likes of Markese Stepp, Jaquez Yant and Gabe Ervin standing in his way.
Morrison is too talented to be held back, in my opinion, as long as he stays healthy. I would like to see him get an extended opportunity at some point so we can see what he can do.
RB clearly a question mark at Nebraska. Former 4-star Sevion Morrison had a good hard run in team drills earlier in practice. In the mix, for sure. pic.twitter.com/YdafziyDo3— Dave Revsine (@BTNDaveRevsine) August 5, 2021
He is a different running back than both Stepp and Yant. I’m not sure he is a change of pace type of guy but he could be productive in 2021.
Jordon Riley - Defensive Tackle
Another guy with injuries holding him back.
Jordan Riley is one of the largest players on the team at 6’6” and 330 pounds.
He was injured leading up to the 2020 season and finished with just one tackle.
If he is healthy then I think he could be in that rotation at defensive line and they can cycle out Damion Daniels who started at nose tackle for the Huskers.
The young D-line dudes Weaver (No. 50), Buckley (No. 63) and Marquis Black fit in size-wise and then some. Jordon Riley also looked fresh after injury-plagued 2020. #Huskers pic.twitter.com/pVJqYbAKdR— Brian Christopherson (@Husker247BC) August 4, 2021
Pheldarius Payne - Outside Linebacker
Nebraska really needs a better pass rush and that answer could come with a great last name. Hopefully, Pheladarius Payne will be bringing the pain this season.
I cringed as I typed that and I hope you cringed as you read it.
Payne played in every game last season but was mostly just winging it. This off-season he has learned the defense and picking up on keys to help him play faster. You know a kid is talented when the coaches put him out there without the player completely understanding the game.
That apparently has changed for Payne. He should see more snaps in 2021 and I think we will see more than 2.0 tackles for loss and 1.0 sack.
Will Nixon - Wide Receiver
Injuries. Injuries. Injuries.
There appears to be a theme to the players that I would buy stock in this season. There have been injuries holding them back in the past and Will Nixon was not immune to this issue.
Nixon missed the entire 2020 season due to an ACL injury and he claims that he is 100% healthy for the first time.
He could possibly be the 2nd-team slot receiver behind Samori Toure but will be battling Alante Brown for that spot. Alante Brown could also be on this list but he showed a little bit more last season than Nixon.
There are a lot of unproven wide receivers on the roster. He will get his opportunity at some point in the 2021 season to prove it in a game.
Nixon said he has been soaking up all of the knowledge that Samori Toure has been spitting out. They worked together almost every day.